Names erased: How Indigenous people are reclaiming what was lost

Canada has a long history of erasing Indigenous names — but Unreserved is taking a look at the growing movement to reclaim those names before they’re lost.
Sign for Indian Line Road in Brant, Ont. This week on Unreserved, a look at controversial names, and the movement to change them. (@aicramsiwel/Twitter )

This episode originally aired on Oct. 25, 2020.

This week, Unreserved is celebrating Indigenous names for places and people — and grappling with Canada's record of erasing those histories. 

Ts'msyen and Dene lawyer Christina Gray argues that using traditional place names is a way to remind us of Indigenous peoples' authority over the land. She'll explain what the Yellowhead Institute found in their report, "Reclaiming Indigenous Place Names."

In 1971, after decades of forcing numbered tags known as "Eskimo Identification Tags" on Inuit, the Canadian government started Project Surname, a massive effort to give all Inuit family names. In the series, Inuit Names, former commissioner of Nunavut, Peter Irniq, explains the lasting effect Project Surname has had.

Edmonton's city council recently endorsed Indigenous names for each of the city's 12 wards. MacEwan University director of Indigenous initiatives Terri Suntjens, and initiative co-chair Rob Houle explain the meanings behind the new names.

Ka'nhehsí:io Deer, a Mohawk reporter with CBC Indigenous, recently decided she would no longer go by her English name at work. She talks about how the act of reclaiming her identity has impacted her life.

For one small community in Saskatchewan, a small change has created a bit of a buzz.  Zagime Anishnabek recently returned to its original name after years as Sakimay First Nation. Former Chief Lynn Acoose says the name change is the first step toward shedding some of the baggage of colonization.

When new moons were discovered around Saturn, renowned children's author Michael Kusugak was invited to name some of them, in Inuktitut. He explains what inspired the names he chose. 

This week's playlist: 

Logan Staats. (Facebook)

Lucie Idlout — E5-770 My Mother's Name
Logan Staats — OMG 
Terry Uyarak ft. Riit — Anuri
Christa Couture — Far, Far Light of the Stars